From acclaimed columnist and political commentator Michael Harriot, a searingly smart and bitingly hilarious retelling of American history that corrects the record and showcases the perspectives and experiences of Black Americans.
America’s backstory is a whitewashed mythology implanted in our collective memory. It is the story of the pilgrims on the Mayflower building a new nation. It is George Washington’s cherry tree and Abraham Lincoln’s log cabin. It is the fantastic tale of slaves that spontaneously teleported themselves here with nothing but strong backs and negro spirituals. It is a sugarcoated legend based on an almost true story.
It should come as no surprise that the dominant narrative of American history is blighted with errors and oversights—after all, history books were written by white men with their perspectives at the forefront. It could even be said that the devaluation and erasure of the Black experience is as American as apple pie.
In Black AF History, Michael Harriot presents a more accurate version of American history. Combining unapologetically provocative storytelling with meticulous research based on primary sources as well as the work of pioneering Black historians, scholars, and journalists, Harriot removes the white sugarcoating from the American story, placing Black people squarely at the center. With incisive wit, Harriot speaks hilarious truth to oppressive power, subverting conventional historical narratives with little-known stories about the experiences of Black Americans. From the African Americans who arrived before 1619 to the unenslavable bandit who inspired America’s first police force, this long overdue corrective provides a revealing look into our past that is as urgent as it is necessary. For too long, we have refused to acknowledge that American history is white history. Not this one. This history is Black AF.
Michael Harriot is a columnist at theGrio.com where he covers the intersection of race, politics, and culture. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, The Atlantic, NBC, BET, and on his mother’s refrigerator. He is a political commentator on MSNBC and CNN and has been honored by the National Association of Black Journalists for commentary, digital commentary, and TV news writing. Michael is the creator and cohost of the podcast Drapetomaniax: Unshackled History, produced in partnership with Pharrel's OTHERtone. His college course “Race: An Economic Construct” was adapted by university economics departments across the country as a model for teaching the combination of history, economics, politics, and class structures.
“Harriot gives us the story of American history we’ve been missing – one that keeps it real and accounts for the often-overlooked experience of Black Americans.”
— The Root
“With masterful storytelling and extensive, accurate research, Harriot subverts the dominant American narrative, creating a history that is both more truthful and beautifully Black AF.” — The Archive
“Homeschooled in the works of Zora Neale Hurston and W.E.B. Du Bois before becoming an award-winning journalist (for the Grio, Washington Post, CNN, etc.), Harriot makes for a wise and charming guide through the American funhouse of horrors: slavery, erasure, white supremacy — it’s a long list.” — Philadelphia Inquirer
“The book is an amalgam of history, biographies, family memories, political analyses, self-reflection and cultural telescoping. There are recipes and opinions on the differences between soul food and southern cooking. Deadly funny in parts, it can readily provoke readers to laugh out loud and then wonder why they’re laughing. The work’s intentionally fragmented style is a reflection of the duality and duplicity of daily life in Black America.”
— The Bay State Banner
“A razor-sharp reassessment of American history. . . . Entertainingly colloquial and impressively erudite, this meticulous survey of the American past is an invaluable resource.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Fresh eyes and bold, entertaining language combine in this authoritative, essential work of U.S. history." — Kirkus Reviews
“A masterwork… Harriot is completely unafraid to call bullshit where it is warranted, and the humorous sidebars, digressions, and reader activities add further value to a history that every American would do well to read… He presents the material in a way that promises to keep readers engaged and, when required, agitated and spurred to action, and documentation offers ample opportunity for anyone to dig further into a particular topic.” — Kirkus Reviews
“A stirring correction of U.S. history. . . . Emphasizing Black survival and resistance, Harriot simplifies complex issues into easily understandable, digestible bites. . . . With blunt, entertaining, irreverent, sarcastic, and sometimes laugh-out-loud statements, Harriot provocatively explains how the United States came to be and how money-focused, self-serving intentions made it what it is today.” — Library Journal
“Michael Harriot has done it. Written a book that evokes the full range of human emotions. Laughter. Rage. Sadness. Love (of Black resistance). Hate (of anti-Blackness). More laughter. Constant thinking and connecting and discovering. What an experience. But how can this book be anything less when it is Black AF History.” — Ibram X. Kendi, Award-winning author
“This is history as it should be told: straight, no chaser; unvarnished and unembossed. Michael Harriot, the Samuel L. Jackson of the written word, strikes again, weaving fascinating facts, scathing humor and pieces of his own life story to detail the stony road we trod.” — Joy Reid, Host of The ReidOut on MSNBC
“The story we've been told about America has always been redacted. With Black AF History, Michael Harriot removes the redacted parts and replaces them with griot-level storytelling. This is what everyone wishes their high school courses were actually like. Halfway through, you realize that this is not even a book about Black history, it's about how American history is Black AF.” — Pharrell Williams, Grammy Award-winning producer and musician
“Michael Harriot tells the most shocking (not shocking) stories of Black History I've ever heard. Every story is unbelievable yet, unfortunately, completely believable. Black AF History should be taught in every school across America.” — Amber Ruffin, comedian and host of The Amber Ruffin Show
“If I ever won an election for political office, I would have them swear me in on a copy of Black AF History. Michael Harriot is too funny to be this smart. Now, I have to go google how to ship a case of these to Ron DeSantis.” — W. Kamau Bell, Award-winning television host and stand-up comedian